Su-57 Felon Scoring First Victories
Reportedly, the Su-57 has scored its first shoot-downs. This is the news published by bulgarianmilitary, citing undisclosed Russian sources. The Felon supposedly shot down Ukrainian Su-24 and Su-27 involved in a raid against Belgorod in October last year. That raid was known for a recording depicting Russian air defence assets being defeated by HARM missiles launched by the Ukrainian aircraft.
Back then, Russian information emerged suggesting that some of the Ukrainian aircraft involved in that strike were shot down. S-300V4 SAM hit was mentioned within that context. The downing of the Ukrainian jets was possible, as they had to gain more altitude before the actual strike - the aircraft were approaching the target at a low level and then they climbed to give their missiles more favorable launch conditions.
Now, the "Russian sources" are making claims that the successes were achieved not thanks to the involvement of GBAD assets, but thanks to the latest Russian jets stationed at the airbase in Akhtubinsk. Interestingly, the distance at which the engagement took place (217 kilometers) has been unchanged. It falls well within the performance envelope of the S-300 system, with a range of up to 400 kilometers. The Russian propaganda has mentioned the fact that the shootdowns in question have been achieved thanks to the R-37M Vympel air-to-air missile, depicted as a "wunderwaffe" that remains capable of attacking air threats at a distance of 400 kilometers and maneuvering air threats at up to 200 kilometers. This is done at speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 6 - as the Russian sources claim. Most of the Russian air-to-air kills are associated with the R-37M. Notably, in February this year, Ukrainians captured the R-37M in an unexploded form. It reportedly was transferred to the UK - owning the MBDA Meteor technologies.
The British media meanwhile, back in February, mentioned a Su-57 shooting down a Ukrainian jet while escorting a MiG-31 carrying the Kindzhal hypersonic weapon.
The reported air-to-air kills need to be treated with a grain of salt - that applies especially to two kills that had previously been associated with the use of the S-300 SAM. Assuming that the kills happened, it is far more probable that they have been achieved thanks to a GBAD asset deployed in the area, and continuously monitoring the airspace, than that the kills were achieved by an aircraft. Especially given the fact that the kills had been said to be possible due to the higher altitude of the targets, as they climbed before commencing the strike.
On the other hand, the Su-57 could have theoretically achieved the kills using the Vympel missiles. Now, the question is what role the jet played, and to what extent the missiles were the asset that did its job here.
Either way, it is now clear that the Su-57s conduct operations in the region, flying in Russian airspace though, to say the least, they are used as a long-range precision armament trucks. So far, it was usually assumed that the above referred to air-to-surface weapons alone.